Monday, March 30, 2015

More flying please

April is almost here.

My airline, like many regionals, is having a problem with having enough qualified pilots in the RIGHT seat. First Officer attrition is higher than Captain attrition as First Officers on the bottom of the list are bailing for other Regionals with a shorter upgrade time. The often repeated "chasing the upgrade" race.

Upgrade times at airlines are very fluid. The posted upgrade times are whenever THAT guy chose to upgrade. For example lets look two pilots. Bryan hired March 30, 2007 and Chris hired March 30, 2008.

Years go by and Bryan is a senior First Officer with a big vacation planned this year AND a baby on the way. He knows he will need time for both. The CBA at his airline states upon reaching Captain all vacation must be rebid as a Captain instead of a First Officer. Since he's a senior First Officer he can hold the best vacation weeks during summer. Most junior pilots get January-February vacation followed by August-October.

A vacancy bid is opened and Bryan could hold Captain. He decided to bypass for quality of life. Chris puts the bid in and gets the award. Suddenly "upgrade" time drops by 1 year....even though it's somewhat artificial.

Every airline has First Officers who choose not to upgrade.

Today I had a 777 First Officer on my jump seat. He's been at my mainline partner for 25 years. He works 9 days a month as a First Officer and enjoys great quality of life. He can hold narrow body Captain on anything in the fleet. He's staying a First Officer due to quality of life.

That said.... I hope to be Captain soon.

In the meantime I will be content in "making" Captain pay as my airline is paying First Officers double time for picking up extra flying.

My strategy going forward will be to bid low time lines with a lot of days off with the plan to pick up extra flying on days off. It's a gamble as there could not be extra flying to be had....but I'm a betting man.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

So what's going on?

March has been busy. I turned a year old (now 38!) and will celebrate my 10th wedding anniversary tomorrow.

I had two really great trips this month. I purposely bid overnights in the Bahamas. Aside from my first 4 day trip, my only other overnights were in the Bahamas. It was like a paid vacation!

My flight arrived at noon and left the next morning at 7:30 AM. I had a great crew and we treated the overnight as a vacation. We had lunch and beverages at the hotel before going out and exploring and enjoying local food and beverages.

Looking forward things are bumpy for my airline. We are shrinking...and fast. I'm hoping to upgrade soon, but not holding my breath.

I did test the waters by applying to other regionals. Within 35 minutes of applying I had a phone call from a recruiter from a regional looking to set up an interview. Within 5 hours I had another phone call from a second airline offering a class date stating I have plenty of experience and could upgrade within 2 years.  Both would mean cutting my pay in half and having to commute. I will ponder it, but will likely not go.

Over the years I've enjoyed very good quality of life by living in base. I've spent countless and valuable extra time with my family I could not have had if I commuted. That has come as a sacrifice as I would have been a Captain elsewhere. It's a price I had to pay and glad I did.

Things might change soon though as my wife was given notice that her job of 13 years will no longer exist locally come the end of the year.

Being a pilot I can live just about anywhere and commute. Since she is the primary bread winner (till I upgrade) we are considering a move. She's a DNA Forensic Scientist (with a Masters degree if anyone knows a great gig opening!) so she has a job in demand, just not much locally.

That's all for now. I don't want this site to go stale. I will try more updates soon.

Monday, March 16, 2015

I'm still here

If you are seeing this then you correctly typed instead of I'm working on getting both working.

I've moved the site to blogger. It's free. The last host was costing me $130 a year. Pricey for a blog.

I'm still a senior albeit disgruntled First Officer. The upgrade time was 7.5 years. I hit 7.5 years next month. I doubt I will upgrade before fall.

More later. A lot going on outside of flying right now.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Well isn't that special

Day 3 of a 4 day. So far I've only done one of my original flights. Weather has dessemated my schedule.

My original trip was decent but got back at 9PM on Saturday. It was just a single leg in. I had no desire to sit in a hotel all day on a weekend. I traded into a new trip that finishes at 3:30 PM Saturday. It was a 3-4-2-5 trip. Better.

This winter has been brutal.

My trip started on Wednesday. On Tuesday my trip started to fall apart. I had just one leg to the overnight.

Twenty minutes to departure and there was no Captain. I saw him name on when I signed in and know who he is....he just wasn't here. Ten minutes to go he arrived. There was an issue with him signing in.

Blocked out 20 minutes late. After deicing we took off 50 minutes late. My leg.

The outstation was reporting heavy snow, 1000 foot ceilings and 1/2 mile visibility, gusting winds and they were using the 7000 foot runway instead of the 8000 foot runway as the shorter runway had an ILS. We had two alternates.

The plane I was flying had no APU and only one operable thrust reverser.

I haven't flown much this year. The aircraft I fly is authorized to land with full or reduced flaps. I prefer reduced flaps as it uses less fuel, quieter and is easier to grease on.

With the inoperable thrust reverser, snow/ice covered runway and gusting winds I elected to use full flaps.

The performance chart for reduced flaps showed needing 5000 feet while full flaps needed just 3850 feet. Both figures excluded the use of thrust reverse and were for a wet runway with good braking.

If braking action was reported "fair" we needed 7620 feet for reduced flaps and 5830 feet for full flaps. The penalty for no thrust reverse was 2238 feet for reduced flaps (a total of 9858 feet) and 1350 for full flaps ( a total of 7180).  Basically if braking action wasn't good....we couldn't land.

I had not had a full flaps landing in months. I also haven't landed on snow in months. Good times.

By the time we arrived the snow was now light and the winds had died down. I still kept the full flaps.

The runway was not plowed well and still covered in patchy ice. The Captain called the runway 2 miles out. I looked up to see a sea of white. I faintly saw the runway lights and outline.

Ice and snow obscured most runway markings. Braking action reported good.

The full flaps made for a heavy feeling yoke.

I made a slightly firm touchdown with the mains and slowly lowered the nose on the pavement and began braking. I opened the one good thrust reverser just in case. We came to taxi speed with 3000 feet left.

Long overnight. My schedule on day 2 changed a few times. Finally settled with a 6:30 PM departure for me. The Captain I flew with was reassigned and earlier departure.

The snow had stopped. Left a few minutes early. My leg again. Arrived early. I was reassigned to a different overnight.

I met crew number 3 for the week. Very Junior Captain....barely senior to me.

In order to keep the streak of good landings going I took the outbound leg again.

During my preflight I found very thin frost on the left wing. The aircraft would have easily taken off with the frost....but regulations state the top of the wing must be free of frost.

The deicing team was no where to be found. We waited 20 minutes for them to drive out to the de-ice pad. We took off over an hour late.

The next outstation was bitterly cold. Just 2 degrees Fahrenheit! They had previously had heavy snow. The ATIS reported just the approach and departures end taxiways were open. Everything in between was closed. The runway was reported as having snow and ice again.

This plane had both thrust reversers. I planned another full flap landing. In and almost done. The parking area had over a foot of snow. The ground crew never cleared it. It made for an "interesting" post flight.

As my crew walked up the jetbridge  (at 12:40 AM!) I noticed I had two voicemails from Crew Scheduling. I use Google Voice and have all Crew Scheduling calls go directly to's part of my strategy. They don't pay my phone bill so there is no reason for them to call me.

The transcription showed they wanted me to have exactly 10 hours of rest and come back to fly another flight back to base. The contract states they must have positive contact meaning two way communication.

I was already tired. The drive to the hotel took 20 minutes due to snow. At best I would have 8 hours of rest. I declined to call them back. I knew it would not be just one flight back but another series of flights.

They called twice more...straight to voicemail. I got to my hotel room and was exhausted. As I laid down my HOTEL phone rang. I just picked it up and set it back down. I knew who it was. I wasn't interested. If I spoke to them there would be no negotiating, I would have to do the assignment they had.

I slept well. I woke up and felt great. The flight they wanted me to fly was staffed with a reserve flown in from another base. It would actually leave at the same time they wanted to fly it. No loss.

So far I am supposed to fly one leg into base, go home and come back tomorrow to finish my trip.

So far.